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Published Friday, November 6, 2015

When Does Your Elderly Parent Need Help?

By Carol Brent

There are few changes in life that are as tough to confront and as upsetting to familial roles as when you’re forced to become the caretaker for your parents. It’s not a job that you want, most likely, and it is oft-times a power-shift that is resisted by your folks – no matter how necessary it may be.

Here are some quick tips for deciding when the time may have come for you to inject yourself more deeply into their day-to-day lives.

The housekeeping falters: This is a tell-tale sign that everyday chores are becoming more difficult.

The bills and other mail are piling up: A great cue of changes in your parents lives are when they are no longer keeping up with the bills.

Your parent is losing a lot of weight: Pay close attention to your parent’s weight. Also, check their refrigerator and pantry to see if there is an appropriate supply of food and that what is there is fresh and edible.

Personal hygiene: If you notice that your parent is wearing the same clothing day in and day out or that their hair or skin appears dirty on a fairly regular basis, they may have lost the motivation, ability and/or forethought to look after them self.

There are signs of forgetfulness in the home: Confusion can also show up in the kitchen and can prove to be deadly if not dealt with quickly. All too often there are stories of older people who accidentally burned their houses down because they left a pot on the stove for hours and fell asleep or have flooded the home when they forgot to turn off the tap

Your parent regularly misses appointments and other important items: Forgetfulness, absentmindedness and memory issues may also show up when it comes to keeping certain appointments, recognizing key dates, or, even more importantly, maintaining medication dosages on schedule.

They are just acting plain weird: If you see signs of paranoia, fear, strange phone calls and conversations and nervousness, this should not be overlooked as it’s a blatant sign that living assistance is in order.


Signs of depression: Mood changes may be a signal that a parent is struggling and suggests that some engagement on your part might be called for. There are a number of classic signs that can be connected with someone suffering depression. A loss of interest in caring for one’s self as well as a lack of participation in socialization and in once-loved hobbies can mean that your parent needs treatment or should reside in an environment where they can be around other people. Sometimes, depression comes from a sense of loneliness or the realization that they can no longer do things for themselves. Putting them somewhere that offers assistance, socialization and activities can help cure the loneliness and put them back on track to a more fulfilling, active and engaged life. 

Carolyn Brent is the author of “Why Wait? The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Preparing Emotionally, Financially & Legally for a Parents’ Death.” Learn more at CareGiverStory.com.

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